Taking the Next Step
By Mark Berens
Find out how to get ready for your first fitness event.
As Group Health member Beverly Schubert explains, it happens before you know it. "Twenty years ago, I started jogging around my neighborhood while my husband watched our young kids, partly for my health, partly for my sanity. Then I met a neighbor, Patti, and we started running together. Knowing she'd be there every morning kept me going. We've been running together ever since."
After many months and miles, Schubert started thinking: "What next?" For her, it was signing up for a 10K organized run. Since then, she's gone on to participate in 2 Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic rides, 12 marathons, 2 ultra marathons, several triathlons, and countless half marathons.
Doug Felts, MD, a family physician at the Group Health Port Orchard clinic, had a similar experience when he started running about a year ago. He began what he calls a "couch to 5K program." He took small, incremental steps and within a couple of months, entered his first event, a 5K run. Later in the year, he completed his first half marathon.
If you're thinking about signing up for a beginning fitness event such as a 5K or 10K run or walk, these tips from Dr. Felts and Schubert will help you train well and be successful.
Go easy on yourself. "At this level, your goal is just to enjoy it," says Dr. Felts. Find out what clothes work best as you exercise, and what food keeps you energized and feeling good.
Don't train too hard. Whether you are walking, running, swimming, or cycling, you shouldn't push yourself too hard. If you can't hold a conversation while training, slow down a bit. And be sure to schedule rest days, too.
Add time, distance, and intensity incrementally. Ben Betteridge, MD, an Activity, Exercise, and Sports Medicine physician at Port Orchard, developed a walking program that starts with a 15-minute daily walk, and over 3 months builds to 60 minutes a day.
Get a mentor or coach, join a group, or find a reliable partner. Encouragement from others will help keep you on track.
Take pride in what you're accomplishing. "If you run, tell people you're a runner," says Dr. Felts. "If you bike, tell people you're a cyclist. Be loud! Own it!"
Two days before your event. Keep anxiety in check by getting plenty of sleep. Lay out all your race clothes and equipment, but resist those new clothes or shoes that might rub or cause blisters. And don't eat anything you haven't tried before on the eve of your race.
On event day. Leave plenty of time to get to the race and find parking. Dress appropriately so you don't become too warm during the race. Don't use headphones — you need to hear what's happening around you.
After the race. Do some gentle stretches and drink a beverage that has some protein in it (chocolate milk is popular).
Stay motivated. Enjoy your achievement as you plan your next step. You may want to consider a "destination race" — a weekend away featuring your next event — to keep you moving and motivated.